Editorial: Demand for more library
Op-Ed · February 01, 2013

The City of West Branch is in a strong position to plan now for a larger public library, and the real questions are where it should go, and how to pay for it.

Whether by reading the library’s annual report or by visiting the West Branch Public Library, there is no doubt that the facility is one of the most vibrant and busy places in the city.

Some highlights of the 2012 report:

• The library hosted 281 events, which averages three events for every four days of the year.

• While circulation dropped from 2011 by about 4,000 items, the more than 41,000 books, CDs, movies, etc. is 16,000 more items than just a decade before, when the library, in the same building, lent out about 25,000 items.

• Some 6,500 people turned out for library programs, up from 6,300 last year and 2,100 a decade before. Of that, more than 400 participated in the Summer Reading Program, nearly 17 percent of the population.

The library is now 19 years old, which may seem difficult to believe as the city and staff take such good care of the building. The building’s problems are not serious: lighting ballasts are failing, carpeting and interior paint are wearing out, and the exterior paint getting the most sun is showing signs of age.

The library staff also continue to purge old, low-interest items from the shelves, making room for popular classics and new best-sellers.

It is a good thing to say that one of the busiest public places in town outside of the school gymnasiums is the city library. The current library, built nearly two decades ago, is more than twice as busy as it was only one decade ago.

The city can easily make the argument that the current library is getting cramped to the point that it is time to start considering more space. It could mean building an addition or finding a new location.

The city has seen the trends of increased usage and is planning now rather than waiting for the building to be overwhelmed to the point that people think twice about visiting. Our population hungers for paperbacks, hard-bound, digital and audio books. We like using their Internet-capable computers, sitting in the quiet room, gathering for Family Movie Night, or hosting a small meeting in the conference room.

The demand is there for more library space.

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